Merciful God, your healing power is everywhere about us. Strengthen those who work among the sick; give them courage and confidence in all they do. Encourage them when their efforts seem futile or when death prevails. Increase their trust in our power even to overcome death and pain and crying. May they be thankful for every sign of health you give, and humble before the mystery of your healing grace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. –ELW page 85
This morning, Bishop Dillahunt and SOS staff members were part of a conference call held by Governor Mike DeWine to discuss the faith community’s role in limiting the spread of the COVID-19 virus. During that call, Governor DeWine stressed the need for church communities to not meet in person. ‘Putting people together of any size at all is a mistake. People are going to die if you put people together in a room. Bringing people together in a church makes no sense.’ Governor DeWine went on to say, ‘My advice is to cancel services.’
Why? ‘This is a matter of survival. If we don’t take these actions and people don’t do this individually’ the virus will spread and people will die as a result because the hospitals cannot handle the spike in patients needing care if the outbreak is not slowed.
As Bishop Dillahunt shared on her call on Monday and in her letter, she strongly recommends that congregations in the Southern Ohio Synod do not meet face-to-face for at least 8 weeks, or until orders change from the Governor. Rostered ministers and councils should be talking and working together to determine how they will worship apart over the next 8 weeks.
What the SOS Bishop’s Office is doing to comply
With the primary goal of keeping people safe, we will not be fulfilling pulpit supply requests for the next 8 weeks, unless guidelines and recommendations change. All congregations that use our pulpit supply pastors, deacons and lay worship leaders have been notified. We are working with congregations to connect them with online worship services, Bible studies and other ways they can continue to be a part of the Lutheran community without being with one another face-to-face. We posted a request on Facebook for you to share any online worship services your congregation is hosting, so that your brothers and sisters in Christ in our synod can partake in worship while we wait out this pandemic. You can also send information to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you in advance for sharing your resources.
In addition, the Southern Ohio Synod office is closed starting Thursday, March 19, 2020 until it is safe for us to resume working together in the same space. All staff members will be working from home and will continue to connect with and assist you while we are away from our normal office space. Please email or call us as you normally would. A directory of our staff members and how to contact us is provided at the end of this message. We know many of our congregations have taken these same measures and we thank you for your leadership.
Worship Director, Josh Brodbeck, is working to pull together worship resources you can use and build upon as the weeks continue. Please check our website for the story Worship resources for SOS congregations during COVID-19 restrictions on our homepage. We will add and update resources as often as possible. Today’s resource is a Youtube video about quick and inexpensive ways to get your worship services online. We hope you find the link helpful.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. –Psalm 46:1